Management of person with dementia with aggressive and violent behaviour: a systematic literature review


  • Ingela Enmarker RN, PhD,

  • Rose Olsen RN, MNSc,

  • Ove Hellzen RN, PhD

Dr Ingela Enmarker
Faculty of Health Science Nord-Trondelag University College Namsos
Telephone: (+46) 26648110E-mail:,


enmarker i., olsen r. & hellzen o. (2010) Management of person with dementia with aggressive and violent behaviour: a systematic literature review. International Journal of Older People Nursing 6, 153–162 10.1111/j.1748-3743.2010.00235.x

Aim.  Studies indicate that physical and pharmacological restraints are still often in the frontline of aggression management in a large number of nursing homes. In the present literature review the aim was to describe, from a nursing perspective, aggressive and violent behaviour in people with dementia living in nursing home units and to find alternative approaches to the management of dementia related aggression as a substitute to physical and chemical restraints.

Methods.  A systematic literature review in three phases, including a content analysis of 21 articles published between 1999 and August 2009 has been conducted.

Results.  The results could be summarised in two themes: ‘origins that may trigger violence’ and ‘activities that decrease the amount of violent behaviour’. Together, the themes showed that violence was a phenomenon that could be described as being connected to a premorbid personality and often related to the residents’ personal care. It was found that if the origin of violent actions was the residents’ pain, it was possible to minimise it through nursing activities. This review also indicated that an organisation in special care units for residents who exhibit aggressive and violent behaviour led to the lesser use of mechanical restraints, but also an increased use of non-mechanical techniques.

Conclusion.  The optimal management of aggressive and violent actions from residents with dementia living in nursing homes was a person-centred approach to the resident. Qualitative studies focusing on violence were sparsely found, and this underlines the importance of further research in this area to elucidate how violence and aggressiveness is experienced and understood by both staff and patients.

Relevance to clinical practice.  To communicate with people with dementia provides a challenge for nurses and other health caregivers. To satisfy the needs of good nursing care, an important aspect is therefore to get knowledge and understanding about aggressive and violent behaviour and its management.